The latest victim in a growing club of exploited tech giants.
Earlier this week, during the happy hubbub of holiday cat snaps and New Years Eve selfies, a huge database of Snapchat phone numbers and usernames was exposed.
The hackers didn’t stop at stealing the information, they made it publicly available on the internet through the currently suspended site SnapchatDB.infoCached copy of SnapchatDB.info with the statement:
“You are downloading 4.6 million users’ phone number information, along with their usernames. People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with.”
Has my snapchat account been compromised?
You can enter your username into this lookup tool to find out if you are one of the 4.6 million unlucky users whose account information has been made public. According to an analysis on Reddit of area codes found in the leaked database; accounts with phone numbers in the following states have not yet been compromised:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
My account has been hacked, now what?
Snapchat is not the only tech giant to be exploited by hackers, they’re just the latest. Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and official blog pages were hacked earlier this week by the Syrian Electronic Army, while Britain’s public broadcasting network BBC was hacked on Christmas day.
The biggest digital looting of the holiday season occurred at Target, where credit and debit card data from 40 million accounts was stolen over several weeks starting Black Friday. Compared to these data breaches, the leaked trove of Snapchat usernames and phone numbers poses a minor threat to the safety of personal data. No credit card information was stolen and no information has been released to show that images and videos were hacked. Now that the information is public, it will spread and find it’s way into the wrong hands. Most effects will be realized weeks, months, and years later.
Following these steps will minimize risk:
- Change usernames that match. If your Snapchat username is the same as the one you use for Instagram, Twitter, or other platforms, it is easy for hackers to connect them to each other and you, especially if you have entered your phone number.
- Step up password security. Only usernames and phone numbers have been compromised; a strong password helps protect the rest of your data. Use capitalization, punctuation, and a modified password for each account (i.e. Facebook = PassWord3.f VS. Twitter = PassWord3.t).
- Delete your account and start fresh. It is currently impossible to change usernames, the only way to truly ensure protection of your data is to delete your current account and create a new one.
- Learn your lesson. Nothing shared through an application or website is truly private or secure. The allure of a self-destructing snap has ignited a massive following, but next time it might not just be account info that is leaked.
The leak is made even more painful due to warnings of the potential hack made by Australian group Gibson Security last week. According to their “told you so” tweet on Tuesday, “…the exploit works still with minor fixes.”
After brushing off warnings of the security risk in a short blog post on Dec. 27, Snapchat staff has sent just one tweet this morning in response to Tuesday’s major leak:
— Evan Spiegel (@evanspiegel) January 2, 2014
With great power, comes great responsibility. This security breach does not offer much comfort for an application that prides itself on their “disappearing” message’s ability to keep your privacy. As Snapchat matures and gathers more user data, they will feel even more pressure from hackers, thieves, and criminals interested in their treasure trove of “deleted” user data. We have all been warned that this app is not secure and user privacy may be at risk.
In the past we’ve wondered what Evan Spiegel might do to make a profit, but now we will await what he does to protect users and keep his software safe.
Read more on this hot social media craze: Snapchat – The True Value of Young Eyeballs